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05/04/14 00:01

Tail injuries in working dogs

Views sought on research findings.

Views are being sought on research on tail injuries in working dogs.

Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead is encouraging key organisations to comment on the findings from Glasgow University, who were commissioned to carry out the research by the Scottish Government.

The first survey of over 1000 owners of working dogs found that in one shooting season more than half of undocked spaniels experienced a tail injury of some sort. The research concluded that docking the tails of spaniel and Hunt Point Retriever puppies by one third could significantly decrease the risk of injury for working dogs of these breeds – in order to prevent one tail injury between 2 and 18 puppies need to be docked.

The second study looked at records of working breed tail injuries from veterinary practices in Scotland. It suggests that to prevent one tail injury between 81 and 135 pointer/setter, spaniel and Hunt Point Retriever puppies would need to be docked.

Key organisations have been asked to feedback on the findings by May 23, 2014.

Mr Lochhead said:

“It is clear to me that animal welfare is an extremely important issue and one which is close to many people’s hearts. For that reason, any decision taken by the Scottish Government fully considers the welfare of each and every animal affected. In some cases, as in this one, there is no clear, straightforward answer and a balance needs to be struck.

“This research that we have funded has provided a sound basis for us to discuss with concerned parties where that balance point should be between protecting the welfare of puppies and protecting the welfare of adult working dogs, and whether further action is justified to protect working dogs from injury.

“I must stress that I have as yet taken no firm stance on this; we need to gain a clearer understanding of the views of interested parties in Scotland before any decision is made.

“I have therefore invited key interested parties to consider the findings of this research and to comment on whether they merit further consideration of a possible exemption to the ban on tail docking for specific working dogs.”

Notes to editors

The two research papers were recently published in the Veterinary Record. The findings can be viewed online:

http://veterinaryrecord.bmj.com/lookup/doi/10.1136/vr.102041

http://veterinaryrecord.bmj.com/lookup/doi/10.1136/vr.102042